Russian troops on Ukrainian soil – EU
“Russian troops are on Ukrainian soil,” the EU’s high representative for foreign affairs and security policy, Josep Borrell, has warned, speaking ahead of the Ministerial Forum for Cooperation in the Indo-Pacific in Paris.
When asked by a journalist on Tuesday how he assessed the “situation right now,” Borrell responded by saying that the “Russian troops has [sic] entered in Donbass,” adding that the EU considers the area to be “part of Ukraine.” The diplomat went on to conclude that, while “Russian troops are on Ukrainian soil,” it was not something he would describe as a “fully fledged invasion” at this point.
The EU official also revealed that the bloc’s foreign ministers are expected to adopt a fresh batch of sanctions against Russia by the end of Tuesday, following Moscow’s decision to recognize the two Donbass republics. Borrell refused to go into detail regarding the nature of the punitive measures, but he added that he was sure a “unanimous decision” would be reached, which is required for the imposition of sanctions.
The US has already slapped sanctions on the two Donbass breakaway regions. Joe Biden signed an executive order late on Monday, which, as White House press secretary Jen Psaki explained, prohibits “new investment, trade and financing by US persons to, from, or in” the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) and Lugansk People’s Republic (LPR), both recognized as independent countries by Russia.
According to the order, Washington also reserves the right to impose sanctions on “any person determined to operate in those areas of Ukraine,” with “additional measures” expected to be announced later on.
Psaki stressed that the latest punitive measures were distinct from the “swift and severe economic measures we have been preparing in coordination with allies and partners should Russia further invade Ukraine.”
Late on Monday, Russian President Vladimir Putin made the decision to recognize the two Donbass republics as independent states. The move followed calls from the DPR and LPR leaderships to do so in the face of what they described as an imminent Ukrainian invasion.
Following the announcement, Putin also floated the idea of sending Russian peacekeepers to the Donbass to prevent a military aggression presumably planned by Ukraine. Moreover, friendship treaties between Russia and the two Donbass republics which are waiting to be fully ratified could pave the way for Russian military bases in the DPR and LPR, as well as military assistance for Lugansk and Donetsk. The treaties have already been ratified by the lower house of the Russian parliament, the State Duma. Now the upper chamber, the Federation Council, has to make the call.
The situation in the region has dramatically escalated in recent days, with the Donbass republics reporting heavy shelling by the Ukrainian army. Two projectiles apparently fired by the Kiev military even flew over the border and landed on Russian territory on Saturday, according to Russia’s FSB security service. Ukraine, however, strongly denied that it was behind the bombardment.
The alleged shelling of Russian land was followed by a further incident on Monday morning which, according to Russian authorities, saw five Ukrainian troops cross the border. When the group was spotted by border guards, two armored vehicles came to its rescue from Ukrainian territory, the FSB claims. In the ensuing firefight, all five intruders were killed, and both vehicles destroyed. Moscow later released a video purportedly showing the two armored personnel carriers’ burning wreckage.
Ukraine, for its part, has dismissed the reports as “fake news,” and insisted that none of its troops had crossed into Russian territory.